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From Aggression to Victimhood: David Aaronovitch (or How the Mighty Fall)

Samedi 25 Avril 2009

From Aggression to Victimhood: David Aaronovitch (or How the Mighty Fall)

WRITTEN BY MARY RIZZO Like anybody, we love to watch false idols crumble, and when rabid Zionist and war advocate Aaronovitch hit the floor with a crash, it was actually one of the most amusing moments in recent political public events. We got to hear, and in some cases, to see the man who considers himself to be an iconoclast living the role of the icon tossed to the floor. And he’s stomping-foot mad about it!

Aaronovitch isn’t what one might consider well known outside of the UK, his argument is actually quite provincial if one can wade through his less than captivating prose, but in his own eyes, he’s quite something. That's him in the photo, giving one of those Come Hither looks he must think the ladies find irresitible. To the unacquainted, this is a man who used to spread a tribalistic ideology and colonial war mongering that would sit well in any imperial war room, and he would wage his battle cries in particular through a moderately progressive UK paper, The Guardian and a more conservative one, the Times. Can we consider it a promotion to now find his lame writing in the really exclusive and excitingly hip London Shtetl weekly, namely the Jewish Chronicle?  

It took Aaronovitch three weeks to assimilate his humiliating defeat in Oxford when he was one of the speakers on a panel that was about a topic that is considered to be “hot”, one about Antisemitism in the UK, and after that pause of reflection, it’s pretty disappointing to see the guy come up with such a weak piece. It is an attempt to soul search, but judging by the result, he maybe should have taken a few more weeks to get a few more ideas to rub together. Watching someone lick their wounds is never interesting, and self-pity at least should have a bit of self-irony to it. But the man takes himself far too seriously, but what would we come to expect from someone who shouts at people, “How DARE you applaud! YOU, Sir, are an antisemite!”


He bares what we can for expediency’s sake call a soul that he has been searching and in the subtitle tells his thousand or so readers: “I imagined this anti-Jewish Jew’s own words would show him up, but they were applauded”. He realises that in a Jewish paper, he has to appeal to the important matters first, namely, “who’s a Jew”. After getting that crucial matter out of the way, one is left with the realisation that if someone operates from some kind of judgment that is so utterly wrong about the need to drive the UK into an invasion against Iraq, making a value error about his own success in front of a paying public at a literary event in Oxford should be no surprise. Humiliation and failure always hurts, but what’s a bit of humiliation compared to being responsible for endorsing the upheaval of a foreign country that has cost the lives of one and a half million civilians?


He doesn’t seem to have that much of a sense of perspective either, if he is missing what matters to people. Let’s see what he wrote: “In essence,” says Aaronovitch, Atzmon’s argument is that Jews are responsible for their own historic misfortunes due to their tribalism and aggression.” Well, the man writing in the Jewish Chronicle about his own poorly managed public speaking event did bring that down on himself, and if he’s blamed for convincing others to get behind the Shock and Awe aggression stuff, this fatal responsibility should weigh on him too. It seems he has captured the essence of some points Gilad Atzmon was making about Jewish identity and its historical responsibilities. In other words, Atzmon suggests that Jews and those who write for Jewish papers, like our subject in question, might think twice and start to take responsibility for their own fate and glimpse into the mirror occasionally. Aaronovitch is very unhappy with such a suggestion. He prefers obviously to keep advocating wars forever, while being an Israeli Hasbara Committee author. With this kind of track record, how could he be stunned, upset or surprised that people are going to be intelligent or attentive enough to just connect the dots and hiss the man out of the premises?   

But then the self-confessional begins as Aaronovitch admits why he took the fatal challenge in accepting to confront Atzmon in public. “I was too proud and arrogant not to believe I could show a roomful of British people that a line was in danger of being crossed.” Apparently as the audio link proves (click on the podcast), Aaronovitch was indeed silly not to realise that Atzmon possesses far more consistency and clarity, as well as having the not small benefit of being humanistic and a capable writer, all of this leading to popularity.  Considering the extensive research he made of Atzmon’s writing - if we want to imagine for a moment he did it himself and not accept the suggestion made on Aaronovitch Watch that it was compiled for him from the other “look like a leftist and talk like a neocon” at Harry’s Place - Aaronovitch should have grasped that he just did not stand a chance. To win the applause of the public, one has to have something to offer.   

A little further on in this vapid article Aaronovitch provides us with an explanation of his total failure. “A co-speaker, arranged at the last minute, was the journalist Nick Cohen. This was worrying, not because Nick is anything other than excellent,” Aaronovitch states, and a round of drinks or dinner shall be due for this hyperbolic comment, “but because British audiences hate ganging-up. If it was two beauteous elves against one hideous orc, they would side with the orc.” Man, if this is how he understood the dynamics, he should have left the research aside and just insisted that Azog be accompanied by the Phantom of the Opera, that way, it would be a fair discussion!
(at the left, how Aaronovitch fancies himself and Cohen). For those out of nursery school or who don’t accept the freaky math of our correspondent, the explanation was far simpler. Our hoity-toity Jewish Chronicler had nothing to say except to just read Atzmon extracts that were - shock - very convincing. Might just be something that explains Atzmon’s huge readership.  Listening to the recordings for those who missed out on the other beauteous elf, Cohen had nothing to say in general except to pour poison on Islam. In an academic platform, the reality is that the two stood zero chance against Atzmon. 

Interestingly enough, when addressing the Jewish reader, Aaronovitch employs some racial and physical categories to get his point across.  Equating Atzmon with an orc was just one example. But here is far more revealing one: “Towards the back was the unmistakable Aryan presence of Michele Renouf, of the Number One Ladies.” Aaronovitch, who campaigns against antisemitism should know that referring to people by employing inflammatory racial references is nothing less than crude racism. However, as Atzmon said during the event, racism is a Jewish territory in the UK. Jewish Chronicle authors such as Aaronovitch get away with it, don’t they? 

“From there it was downhill,” admits Aaronovitch as he watched the room drinking from Atzmon’s well. Aaronovitch and Cohen, the leading advocates of the Iraq war in the British press were confronted with Atzmon’s “diatribe about warmongers” when he was pointing at them again and again. “If you want to know what is the root cause of Antisemitism, here they are, sitting in front of you (Cohen/Aaronovitch)” was basically the recognition that the public was there making. If Jews want to save themselves, they better disassociate themselves from wars that are committed in their names or advocated by their Jewish Chronicle writers. It’s telling that Cohen and Aaronovitch can’t interpret this as one of those “I hope you’re happy now” moments. People actually DO resent their nation being dragged into wars while the journalists are sitting pretty when not actually shouting at them to stop showing their approval of someone else. 

(at the left, how Aaronovitch thinks the public is required to view Atzmon) Towards the end of his confession, Aaronovitch admits being staggered by a Jew who supports Atzmon. Aaronovitch decided to act on this shocking scene.  “Later on that evening, I emailed this man and asked how it could be that he was so interested in Jewish history and the early experience of British Jews, and could end up co-applauding the Judeophobia of an idiotic musician, alongside Renouf.” Seemingly, in spite of Jewish emancipation and 200 years of Jewish assimilation, Aaronovitch expects Jews to act as one people. Pretty astonishing to hear such an idea from a man who advocated the invasion of Iraq in the name of the ‘Western notion of liberty’. When it comes to Jews, Aaronovitch expects total intellectual and spiritual submission. 

Writing for a Jewish paper, Aaronovitch must end with the tragic victim exposition talking about an iconic ‘Jewish student’ who came to him afterwards ‘in tears.’ 


Aaronovitch fails to tell us why exactly the Jewish student was crying. Was it because the war in Iraq didn’t work as had been promised by Aaronovitch? Or maybe was it because of the Madoff swindling affair that inflicted so much loss on so many Jewish charities. Perhaps it was just because the tag team bullying tactics of Cohen /Aaronovitch proved to be a complete disaster and the Jewish student doesn’t have any other devices left at his disposal. It would be great if Aaronovitch would be kind enough to tell us and to remove any form of speculation. When a Jew cries, we all are entitled to know why.


Mary Rizzo is an art restorer, translator and writer living in Italy. Editor and co-founder of Palestine Think Tank, co-founder of Tlaxcala translations collective. Her personal blog is Peacepalestine.
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